An important North American building standards collaboration was announced last week during the 2023 Passive House Canada Conference in Hamilton, Ont.
Passive House Canada (PHC) and the Passive House Network (PHN), its American counterpart, are joining forces in the hope to increase the scale of adoption for high performance buildings across the continent.
The Building Performance Assurance Council (BPAC) is described by PHC as a shared vision to realize national and international goals at scale, using a brand-neutral, outcome-based and data-driven approach to achieving multiple objectives.
BPAC will act as an international resource for national affiliates such as PHC and PHN, supporting a common mission of ensuring buildings meet targets aligned with the Paris Accord and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Passive House Canada CEO Chris Ballard gives credit to his predecessor, Robert Bernhardt, for developing the BPAC concept at the early stages. Bernhardt, in fact, has taken the role of CEO of the new group.
“The launch of BPAC is an exciting opportunity for industry leaders, policy-makers and building owners to align their objectives with global imperatives,” Bernhardt told the Daily Commercial News. “I am honoured to be involved in the initiative and looking forward to engaging with its many partners.”
The announcement, made in-person and virtually to 500 architects, planners and builders attending from across Canada and the United States, was timely given Canada’s progress towards its Paris Accord commitments. They had already heard from various high level officials about the need for Canada to do more to advance high performance construction.
“Canada is not looking really great,” said Dario Liguti, director of the sustainable energy division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
According to the UN’s Sustainability Development Goal (SDG) data for 2021, he said Canada’s reductions in energy efficiency have essentially flatlined since 2015.
“That means Canada is lagging behind some of the other developed countries in the region.”
Julie Dabrusin, parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources and to the minister of environment and climate change, had opened the conference by speaking of Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan to reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by decade’s end.
Dabrusin also outlined the goal of Canada’s upcoming Green Building Strategy to achieve net-zero and climate resilient buildings by 2050.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but there are opportunities as well.”
She also made reference to attracting skilled trade immigrants and federal investments in apprenticeships.
Acknowledging Passive House, she said the organization, “is recognized internationally as an optimal way to build healthy, climate resilient and affordable energy-efficient buildings, and that’s a gold standard that we’re going to have to meet.”
Speaking directly to attendees, she concluded, “We’re looking to people like you to give us the advice we need. I am not designing and building these projects. I am designing the policies that will allow all these elements to come together. We need you to tell us, government, what you need to be able to make it happen and to make it happen quickly.”
This is exactly the invitation and opportunity BPAC seeks.
However, Canada, and by extension BPAC, have their work cut out for them.
Despite certain singular achievements and promises for more action at the federal level, it was made clear Canada is lagging other signatories to the Paris Climate Accord.
Jerome Bilodeau, director of the buildings division at Natural Resource Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, repeated Dabrusin’s statement Canada has a target to reduce 2005 emissions levels by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, and to achieve net-zero by 2050.
However, he said emissions from the building sector were higher in 2021 than in 2005.
“We are still quite some ways away from getting to our targets.”
He qualified that, stating 2021 levels were the lowest since 2016.
Bilodeau reiterated the federal government’s commitment to include a net-zero emissions code in the 2025 National Building Code.
However, existing buildings remain “an enormous challenge,” and efforts to improve need to accelerate significantly.
Overall, he described the federal government’s attitude towards building emissions and codes as a “sticks and carrots approach” that includes support at the municipal level.
Craig Stevenson, president of Pittsburgh-based building science company AUROS Group and board chair of the Passive House Network, expressed confidence that a united BPAC is ready to pick up the gauntlet being thrown. BPAC’s rollout of educational and organizational infrastructure is underway, with more news to come soon.
“We’re stronger together. We want to make Passive House best-practices and do it at scale.”